Aide Calls for Solidarity With Sudanese

Father Lombardi Sees Hope, But Says It’s Fragile

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2011 ( Southern Sudan is set to become the 54th African nation in just over a month, but even a voice from the Vatican is calling for solidarity with Sudanese as the secession process gets bloodier.

Southern Sudan overwhelmingly voted in January to secede from the north. And July 9, it is supposed to become the world’s newest independent nation.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, considered Sudan in the most recent edition of Vatican Television’s «Octava Dies.»

The Jesuit noted that the Sudanese are coming out of a more than 20-year civil war, «bloody and cruel, as all wars are.»

The south is peopled mostly by Christians and animists, while the north is majority Muslim.

«Something important is at stake,» Father Lombardi said. «We cannot remain indifferent to the threats of the establishment of Sharia in the North and to the military attacks against the Abyei region, a new provocation to war.

«We cannot remain indifferent to the sufferings of so many exiled persons who have returned from the North to the South or who now have fled from Abyei, because of fear of hunger, of the sicknesses in the rainy season, which is about to begin.»

The Abyei region, rich in oil, is on the Sudan neighbors’ new border. Several weeks ago, the North sent its military to the spot and thousands fled the fighting. Last week the U.N. Security Council called on the government of North Sudan to withdraw from Abyei, saying that its military presence there is «a serious violation» of previous agreements.

The United Nations today added a plea for peace in fighting breaking out in Southern Kordofan, which is the only oil-producing state of the north, and which maintains strong ties to the south.

Bishops’ pleas

Father Lombardi also noted the endless list of challenges facing a new Southern Sudan, in particular, that of «uniting a people that is not free of tribal divisions and that is extremely poor, not only from the economic but also from the cultural point of view.»

Education is poor in the region, most of which is hardly even accessible by roads.

A «ruling class» needs to be educated and trained, the Vatican spokesman noted.

In such a context, he said, «we realize why the bishops of the place call urgently for international solidarity.»

«Reasons for hope are not lacking, but they are fragile,» Father Lombardi said, «and must be supported with determination by all if we wish to see, finally, a light of justice and peace arise in the heart of Africa.»

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